As White Sox fan and President Barack Obama introduced Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor yesterday he praised her judicial record generally — and in one specific case.
"During her tenure on the district court, she presided over roughly 450 cases," he said. "One case in particular involved a matter of enormous concern to many Americans, including me: the baseball strike of 1994 and ’95."
To laughter, the president said, "in a decision that reportedly took her just 15 minutes to announce — a swiftness much appreciated by baseball fans everywhere — she issued an injunction that helped end the strike."
"Some say," the president said, "that Judge Sotomayor saved baseball."
This was a reference to when then-District Judge Sotomayor ruled in favor of the National Labor Relations Board against Major League Baseball’s owners during the MLB players’ strike.
Operating outside negotiations, owners changed the rules on salary arbitration and free agency and hired replacement players. The NLRB sued the owners to stop making those changes. Sotomayor ruled against the owners and players returned to work.
But baseball fanatic, conservative columnist and ABC News contributor George F. Will takes issue with the notion that this was "saving" baseball.
"The president is a gentleman and a scholar and a great ornament to our society, but he’s not a great baseball historian," Will told us.
"He says that when she ended the baseball impasse that was interrupting play in 1994 and 1995, she saved baseball," Will says. "Far from it. What she did was overturn in a sense, the essence, the underlies, the essential theory of American labor relations, which is the parties should slug it out because they know best and whoever wins, wins."
Will says that "in fact, what she did was take sides, took union’s side against the management, and in so-doing, wasted 262 days of negotiations. That, far from saving baseball, consigned baseball to seven more years of an unreformed economic system, which happened to be the seven worst years in terms of competitive balance."
Sotomayor, Will says, "delayed the restructuring of baseball. So I would say that far from her saving baseball, as the president says, that in fact, baseball thrives now because we got over the damage that her judicial activism did in that strike."